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The Neoliberal Biopolitics of Climate Security: Resilience and the European Union’s Securitization of Climate Change

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Author: Amit, Dotan
Contemporary understandings of resilience were initially developed in the discipline of ecology to theorize ecosystems’ capacities to absorb, adapt, and transform in the face of shocks and stresses. Since then, the concept of resilience has informed a versatile and highly mobile set of guiding principles that have migrated to numerous policy fields. In recent years, it has also been a partial yet increasingly powerful prism through which climate change has been constructed as a security threat. In this regard, some populations, mainly residing in the Global South, are deemed insufficiently resilient to the effects of climate change, thereby generating risks of societal disruption, state failure, and population displacement that may adversely affect the Global North. The critical resilience literature has argued that the rise of resilience-thinking is predicated on its intuitive resonance with a neoliberal injunction to be self-reliant. An examination of European Union (EU) institutions’ and agencies’ climate security discourse and practices corroborates this claim, while also generating novel insights into neoliberalism’s contemporary role in the social construction of threats. However, it also reveals the role of antecedent security discourses and practices – in particular human security, risk management, and the security-development nexus – in structuring climate threat discourse. Drawing from the Paris School of Security Studies and from Foucauldian writings on biopolitics, this project argues that the entanglement of resilience and climate security in EU discourse is a function of both antecedent biopolitical security practices, and distinctly neoliberal sensibilities. The EU’s securitization of climate change, in effect, transfers responsibility for managing the effects of climate change away from societies chiefly responsible for it, and onto people most burdened by it.
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